I say this as a liberal, and as a Muslim. In fact, I speak as a former Liberal Democrat candidate in the U.K.’s last general election and as someone who became a political prisoner in Egypt due to my former belief in Islamism. I speak, therefore, from a place of concern and familiarity, not enmity and hostility to Islam and Muslims. In a televised discussion with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on the issue, I have argued that of course ISIS is not Islam. Nor am I. Nor is anyone, really. Because Islam is what Muslims make it. But it is as disingenuous to argue that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam” as it is to argue that “they are Islam.” ISIS has something to do with Islam. Not nothing, not everything, but something. If you’re going to talk to a jihadist—and believe me, I have spoken to many—you’re not going to find yourself discussing Hitler’s Mein Kampf. You’ll be discussing Islamic texts.
It is important to define here what I mean by Islamism: Islam is a religion, and like any other it is internally diverse. But Islamism is the desire to impose a very particular version of Islam on society. Hence, Islamism is Muslim theocracy. And where jihad is a traditional Islamic idea of struggle, jihadism is the use of force to spread Islamism. Defined in this way, it becomes easier to understand how this global jihadist insurgency seeks to recruit from Islamists, who in turn operate among Muslim communities.
The danger of not recognizing this relationship between the ideology of Islamism and the religion of Islam is twofold. Firstly, within the Muslim context, those liberal reformist Muslims, feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, dissenting Muslims, and minority sects—all these different minorities-within-the minority of the Muslim community—are immediately betrayed. By failing to name the ideology and isolate it from everyday Islam, we deprive these reforming voices of a lexicon, a language to deploy against those who are attempting to silence their progressive efforts within their own communities. We prevent a conversation around ending Islamism’s appeal while also reforming traditional Islam. If it has “nothing to do with Islam,” there is nothing to discuss within Islamic communities. In this way, we surrender the debate to the extremists, who meanwhile are discussing Islam with impunity.
The second danger is in the non-Muslim context. What happens if you don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam? President Obama in his last UN speech referred to a “poisonous ideology,” yet failed to name it. Most people, who are understandably in need of some guidance on such topics, may well assume that the ideology they must challenge is Islam and all Muslims, ergo the rise of current populist xenophobic trends within Europe and America.
We should be able to distinguish Islamist extremism from Islam by clarifying that Islam is simply a religion and that Islamism is a theocratic desire to impose a version of that religion over society. And once we do that, we are then able to clearly identify the insurgent ideology that we must understand, isolate, undermine, refute, and provide alternatives to. It is precisely this distinction that I have spent the last few years advising Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron on, and I would like to think that is why Cameron corrected Obama on this very issue at the United Nations.
After acquiring his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, Ahaan Rungta joined the MIT Class of 2019 at age 15.
Ahaan Rungta and his family moved from Calcutta, India, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2001, the same year MIT announced OpenCourseWare (OCW), a bold plan to publish all of MIT’s course materials online and to share them with the world for free. Little did his parents realize at the time that their two-year-old son — already an avid reader — would eventually acquire his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, and would be admitted to the MIT class of 2019 at the age of 15.
“When I was five years old my mom told me ‘there’s this thing called OCW,’” says Rungta, who was homeschooled. “I just couldn’t believe how much material was available. From that moment on I spent the next few years taking OCW courses.”
When most kids are entering kindergarten, Rungta was studying physics and chemistry through OpenCourseWare. For Rungta’s mother, the biggest challenge to homeschooling her son was staying ahead of him, finding courses and materials to feed his insatiable mind.
“My parents always supported me and found the materials I needed to keep learning. My mother was a resource machine. As I got older, I studied math through OCW’s Highlights for High School program, and when I was ready for Linear Algebra, I watched all of Professor Gil Strang’s 18.06 video lectures. From the time I was 5, I learned exclusively from OCW. And I knew then I wanted to go to MIT.”
When Rungta turned 12, his family moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, as his parents realized he needed to be in a more intellectually stimulating environment. He also wanted to live closer to MIT.
For his 13th birthday, Rungta only wanted one thing — a visit to the Institute. “I stepped onto campus and it changed my life,” he says. “I will never forget the feeling of walking into the lobby of Building 7, looking up, and then touching the pillars to see if they were real. I couldn’t believe I was at MIT. My life and my ambitions moved to another level at that moment.”
Later that day, Rungta saw an Indian restaurant in the Student Center that had been closed down. He suggested to his dad — a chef who owned a restaurant in Lowell — that he look into reopening the café. His father soon became the manager of Café Spice, and the family moved from Lowell to Cambridge. Rungta studied in the Student Center every day while his father ran the café.
MIT was undergoing big changes of its own that year, with the launch of MITx, in which MIT courses would be made available online and delivered on the edX platform. Just as Rungta was ready for a new intellectual challenge, MIT once again was there for him, as its own digital learning efforts were expanding to now provide online courses in addition to course materials. When he was 9, Rungta took 3.091 (Introduction to Solid State Chemistry) through OCW with Professor Donald Sadoway. Four years later, he signed up to take it again — this time through MITx with Professor Michael Cima. He has since taken 55 MITx and OCW courses, and he now uses these online resources to supplement his on-campus undergraduate experience.
Reflecting on his journey from Calcutta to Cambridge and the many intersecting moments with MIT, Rungta is grateful to his parents and to MIT for being responsive to his needs every step of the way. “MIT has been my middle school, my high school, my entire education. That’s pretty amazing. Some people think I’m gifted, but I don’t think so. OCW was a gift to me. I was lucky to be born at the time MIT was opening up education to the world and extra lucky that OCW brought MIT and me together.”
As he ponders declaring a major next year, Rungta pauses for a moment, and then he lights up. “In an ideal world, I would want to major in everything.”
Societies have to think about how they’re going to approach the problem,” Noble said. “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”
“Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Col., if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly?” Noble said, referring to states with pro-gun traditions. “What I’m saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?’ This is something that has to be discussed.”
“For me it’s a profound question,” he continued. “People are quick to say ‘gun control, people shouldn’t be armed,’ etc., etc. I think they have to ask themselves: ‘Where would you have wanted to be? In a city where there was gun control and no citizens armed if you’re in a Westgate mall, or in a place like Denver or Texas?'”
From the UK Telegraph:
The Paris attacks are the culmination of a 200-year-long battle over how Islam should respond to the rise of Western power
The fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is not a common mode of thinking for most Muslims, especially in recent times. But it is clearly driving the political agenda in Muslim countries. Not all Muslim modernisers are willing to confront the anti-Western and anti-Semitic beliefs that feed the Islamist narrative. The Islamists are dominating the discourse within the Muslim world by murdering secularists and forcing many of them to leave their countries.
With over 1.4 billion Muslims around the globe, the swelling of the fundamentalist ranks poses serious problems. If only 1 per cent of the world’s Muslims accepts this uncompromising theology, and 10 per cent of that 1-per cent decide to commit themselves to a radical agenda, we are looking at a one million strong recruitment pool for groups such as al-Qaeda, IS and whatever comes next.
Only a concerted ideological campaign against medieval Islamist ideology, like the one that discredited and contained communism, could turn the tide. [“Paris attacks and the civil war between Islam’s medievalists and modernisers“]
A very insightful read on the relation between Islamic terrorists and Islam.
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Hussein Aboubakr has penned an excellent post on The problem with moderate Muslims | The Times of Israel:
One of my other concerns regarding moderate Muslims is their response to Islamic terrorism. Whenever the issue of Islamic extremism arises, the first reaction of moderate Muslims is not to start an honest debate and reform in their religion but to defend Islam and Muslims. Moderate Muslims are obsessed with slogans like “the religion of peace” more than they care about facing the terrorists emerging from their own communities. Moderate Muslims rush to warn about Islamophobia and unjust western prejudice against Muslims. Almost in every single occasion that Islamic terrorism is mentioned, Muslims’ first action is to defend their faith. They assert over and over how peaceful and beautiful Islam is. They are obsessed with their religion and care about it more than they care about stopping murder in its name. It should be clear that this kind of obsession is just another form of fundamentalism. The time has come to talk about how unhelpful and unhealthy their constant obsession with Islam is. Those Muslims need to know that it is more important right now to direct their efforts inside their communities to battle extremism than to polish the image of a faith soaked in blood. Constantly using the rhetoric of Islamophobia and defending their faith as if it was under attack does not help us to promote peace but actually makes the job of terrorist recruiters easier.
We can all agree that prejudice against Muslims is indeed a form of unacceptable discrimination, but moderate Muslims should not try to stifle criticism of their religion by raising the racism card. Many Muslims are responsible for creating an environment of intimidation and social blackmail, using the alleged charges of Islamophobia to immediately dismiss any criticism. We should be clear and honest to our Muslim friends; Islam and its prophet are just other figures in the world of religious fascinations and they are not above criticism and ridiculing and this is nonnegotiable.
Written and Directed by Neel Kolhatkar Modern Educayshun delves into the potential dangers of our increasingly reactionary culture bred by social media and political correctness. According to Neel “the film is the appraisal of science and reason – how extensive political correctness can hinder the pursuit of such values.”
David Siegel has penned an excellent essay over at Medium on What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled:
As I started to look at the data and read about climate science, I was surprised, then shocked. As I learned more, I changed my mind. I now think there probably is no climate crisis and that the focus on CO2 takes funding and attention from critical environmental problems. I’ll start by making ten short statements that should challenge your assumptions and then back them up with an essay.
- Weather is not climate. There are no studies showing a conclusive link between global warming and increased frequency or intensity of storms, droughts, floods, cold or heat waves.
- Natural variation in weather and climate is tremendous. Most of what people call “global warming” is natural, not man-made. The earth is warming, but not quickly, not much, and not lately.
- There is tremendous uncertainty as to how the climate really works. Climate models are not yet skillful; predictions are unresolved.
- New research shows fluctuations in energy from the sun correlate very strongly with changes in earth’s temperature, better than CO2 levels.
- CO2 has very little to do with it. All the decarbonization we can do isn’t going to change the climate much.
- There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” Carbon dioxide is coming out of your nose right now; it is not a poisonous gas. CO2 concentrations in previous eras have been many times higher than they are today.
- Sea level will probably continue to rise — not quickly, and not much. Researchers have found no link between CO2 and sea level.
- The Arctic experiences natural variation as well, with some years warmer earlier than others. Polar bear numbers are up, not down. They have more to do with hunting permits than CO2*.
- No one has shown any damage to reef or marine systems. Additional man-made CO2 will not likely harm oceans, reef systems, or marine life. Fish are mostly threatened by people, who eat them.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others are pursuing a political agenda and a PR campaign, not scientific inquiry. There’s a tremendous amount of trickery going on under the surface*.
Read Siegel’s essay What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled.
The research by Dr. Cullen and many other scientists has shown that despite the high levels of contamination in Japan, the levels across the Pacific are so low they are difficult to detect. Even in Japan, he says, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation have determined the doses of ionizing radiation “are low enough that there will be no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related illness in them or their descendants.”
Of course this does not fit the narrative of those who think the Fukushima accident has poisoned the Pacific and is responsible for a wave of cancer deaths across North America.
Dr. Cullen said he frequently hears from people that his science simply can’t be right because the Pacific Ocean is dying. It is adrift with tsunami debris and plastic waste and its stocks have been overfished, but it has not been killed by nuclear radiation.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam has written an excellent review of The Infidel called Fighting Jihad in a Politically Correct Comic Book World:
Fawstin has faced numerous threats. He has risked his life. And despite being at the center of one of the biggest stories of the year, his award-winning cartoon of Mohammed was censored by the media. Pigman’s boldness, Duke’s boldness, Fawstin’s boldness are all here. And they deserve our support.